107. Memorandum of Conference With President Eisenhower0


  • Secretary Gates
  • Colonel Eisenhower

[Here follows discussion of personnel matters.]

Secretary Gates then mentioned the matter of strategic targets. He said he had already gone through fifteen meetings with JCS on this subject. It is a subject extremely broad in scope, covering basic military policy, listing of targets, strategic planning, and roles and missions of the Services. It is of course a highly emotional subject.

More specifically, the question at issue now involves the Air Force recommendation for unified strategic command (not to be confused with the Strategic Air Command).1 The staff procedure for targeting is not satisfactory as of today. This is carried out in the Joint Staff where procedures are cumbersome and time lags often result. With some weapons the Navy does not plan to deliver warheads on target for some fifteen days following initiation of hostilities. On the other hand, the Air Force has developed a highly integrated set-up within the Strategic Air Command for targeting. They have spent much time on this subject and have the resources to spend on elaborate computers, etc. The other Chiefs of Staff desire to continue the present system of targeting by unified commanders, the results to be periodically coordinated at the annual Commanders Conference. The basic difficulty with this scheme is that coordination is done without benefit of referee.

Secretary Gates reminded the President of the Hickey Report2 which set forth the “optimum mix” of counterforce vs. soft targets. He felt that this report can serve as the basis for an Integrated Operation Plan.

Secretary Gates expressed his own view that we do not need a strategic command as such. The problems of SAC and of Polaris are too different. In addition, the initial command in case of global war would be a simple execution order from the President to the JCS. The JCS actually maintain command in a military sense. It is necessary, however, to develop a single operational plan. The only unit capable is SAC. Conceivably, SAC should operate as an agent of the JCS. The Army and Navy [Page 421]are suspicious of this arrangement as a power play on the part of the Air Force, to which Secretary Gates has told them that if SAC takes over the functions of the Joint Chiefs it is the fault of the Chiefs themselves. He added that nuclear retaliation comprises a single mission force, inflexible in nature, and therefore only a specialized portion of the broad responsibilities of the JCS. While there is no question of the JCS retaining command in the event of nuclear war, the issue is whether the Joint Staff will develop the Integrated Operation Plan itself or whether they will employ SAC as the agent. He concluded that unless SAC is employed as an agent of the JCS it will not be possible to achieve a coordination any better than a tidying up of what we now have.

The President said the original mistake in this whole business was our failure to create one single Service in 1947. He discussed certain prejudices on the part of the Navy that makes this entire matter more difficult. He told of his difficulties as a theater commander in inducing any U.S. Navy man to take an order from anyone outside his own Service, until Admiral King,3 in 1942, saw the light and gave the unified commanders full backing. Even today the President said that if he were to appoint an Army or Air Force General to command CINCPAC, Admiral Hopwood4 would think we are unfair. The President expressed his disagreement with this Navy point of view. He mentioned another prejudice which involved rivalry between the U.S. Navy and the British Navy and our reluctance to allow the Union Jack to fly in the Pacific.

Secretary Gates stated he is aware of traditional prejudices but reiterated the need for an Integrated Operational Plan since matters as they stand now are cumbersome and expensive in nuclear raw materials. In short, management is bad.

The President said he did not consider a single strategic command feasible at this time. We need an Integrated Operational Plan to include objectives, approaches to attaining objectives, means, and designation of forces. He thought we might put this requirement on the JCS with an admonition that if they fail to come up with an integrated plan within six months they will all be replaced.

Mr. Gates agreed completely and brought up once more the question of the resources available to the JCS to accomplish this. He said the only agency available is SAC. The President said he does not care if the function is performed by SAC as an agency of the Joint Staff. He agreed more heartily when Secretary Gates assured him that the SAC planners would have to be augmented with personnel from the other Services.

[Page 422]

[Here follows discussion of press leaks.]

John S.D. Eisenhower
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, Eisenhower Diaries. Top Secret. Drafted by Colonel Eisenhower.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 101.
  3. See Document 90.
  4. Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, 1942–1945.
  5. Admiral Herbert G. Hopwood, then Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT). The Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC) in 1960 was Admiral Harry D. Felt.